NFC North: Moneyball
Many of you Black and Bluers, especially those in Detroit, might be unfamiliar with Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is taking a second interview Monday with Lions officials. Schwartz has been with the AFC's Titans since 1999, and as a result has coached a grand total of seven games against NFC North teams in his career.
So who is Schwartz? He is a Baltimore native with an economics degree from Georgetown. Schwartz played linebacker for the Hoyas and broke into the NFL as a gofer for then-Cleveland coach Bill Belichick in 1993.
Here is a nice profile from Judy Battista of the New York Times, which chronicles his occasionally overblown reputation as a statistical analyst. Some have called Schwartz the Billy Beane of the NFL, referencing the Oakland A's general manager who was the centerpiece of Michael Lewis' "Moneyball."
In the Times piece, however, Schwartz downplayed that caricature and said statistics are but one way to prepare for an NFL game:
"Sometimes, that's an easy thing for people in the media to use against you. 'Oh, yeah, he can't adjust; he's just a stats guy. They don't really understand the game.' That's why sometimes, the whole stats thing is a dirty word. If you ask me, 'Would you rather have a great fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants guy on Sunday, a guy who can dial up plays and he'd be the best in league, or a guy who is best in the league from Monday to Saturday preparing?' I respect the guy who prepares. You're not always going to be rolling 7, 7, 7 and be hot every week. But if you prepare well during the week, you'll be consistent from week to week."
The reality is you would be surprised how many NFL coaches have a deep interest in -- and rely heavily on -- statistical analysis. And not all of them have economics degrees, either. Schwartz might be more willing to advocate for it publicly, but most teams employ Information Technology analysts who run numbers on everything imaginable in an NFL game. And trust me, those figures usually are delivered directly to the head coach's desk.
Schwartz might play a bigger role in developing those numbers than some coaches, but his interest is no greater than that of many of his colleagues. He clearly is a finalist for the Lions job, if not the leading candidate. Another likely finalist is Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and possibly New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will have his first interview Tuesday.